Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg

16100972Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg
Published May 28th 2013 by
Arthur A. Levine Books
Source: eGalley via NetGalley (Thanks Scholastic!)

Rafe has a pretty good life. He likes sports and hanging out with friends and just happens to be gay. His parents and best friend could not be more supporting. There is only one small problem, he hates being known as the gay kid. He doesn’t get bullied or picked on but he does get treated differently. He decides he wants a fresh start and finds an all-male boarding school across the country. He starts a new school year being known as just Rafe.

This was such a unique story to me and I really enjoyed it. Rafe was such a great character that just simply wants to be normal but as long as people think of him as the gay kid he won’t feel normal. I felt that even though Rafe was not being directly bullied at his old school, he was receiving some form of it. Without this sounding bad, Rafe was incredibly normal. Being treated differently for being gay is the same as being treated differently for being fat or Hispanic or tall. Why should any of these things cause someone to be treated differently?

Rafe begins many friendships at his new school and I thought this is where the novel really pulled me in. At first Rafe thinks he wants to be associated with the jocks rather than his geeky roommates. He soon befriends the joke that also happens to be a bit of an outsider. Their friendship evolves, as does Rafe’s friendship with his roommates and he soon finds himself less associated with the people he originally thought he wanted to be friends with.

This story is written similar to Sarah Dessen’s novels. There were times when heavy stuff was going on but it never felt too heavy or overwhelming. It is that magical quality of heavy and light at the same time. I always love this because reading something too serious or too heavy can make me uncomfortable and sometimes cause me to stop reading the book altogether. I did not find this at all in Konigsberg’s writing and that made a wonderful story.

Rating

4star

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How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True – Sarah Strohmeyer

zoeHow Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True – Sarah Strohmeyer
Published April 23, 2012 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: purchased

I was super excited for this after reading (and loving) Strohmeyer’s other YA book Smart Girls Get What They Want. How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams is straight adorable. Zoe and her cousin get hired for elite theme park Fairyland. Soon after orientation Zoe finds herself assistant to the evil queen herself while all other summer employees are cast as different fairy tale characters. The summer is spent catering to her every need, which includes walking The Queen’s lovely dog Tinkerbell at the crack of dawn.

It turns out this is a reverse Cinderella story about Zoe searching for her “Prince Charming” based on something he left behind after their magical meeting one night in the forbidden zone of the park. Zoe can’t go around asking questions about her prince though because she could get fired for breaking one of Fairyland’s biggest rules about not going into the forbidden zone, which would result in her immediate termination. She manages to navigate herself around the rules and her boss to find her prince. There is a lot more twists in this story than I was expecting and was pleasantly surprised! There is a “feud” against The Mouse that plays a key role in the story that I quite enjoyed.

I really liked Zoe’s character. She was smart and was able to figure out her how to deal with what is supposed to be one of the hardest jobs at the park all the while she supports her cousin’s quest to become a princess (which is the most sought after job at the park). Alas Zoe is like many YA main character’s and falls for guys fairly easily. This causes her some bumps in the road but in the end she has a good head on her shoulders that helps her out in the end.

If you are a fan of contemporaries or summer books I recommended adding this to your summer reading list, this is totally a beach read (and it was published straight to paperback!)

Rating

4star

Recommendations

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The Elite – Kiera Cass

the eliteThe Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass
Published April 23
, 2013 by HarperTeen
Source: purchased

The Selection was pure candy for me and The Elite was its darker, richer cousin. The Elite still had its fluffy romantic moments but Cass delved deeper into the world where such things as the Selection are necessary. The Elite had much more world builder that I never realized The Selection lacked. There is not only more information about the caste system but more about foreign lands, as well as their problems or successes.  On top of this information there is also a great look into what life is like being a royal (and I will tell you it is not all pretty dresses and tasty food). America and the other Elite get put to the test not only to prove they are worthy of Maxon’s love but being called a princess.

I read multiple reviews and saw that many people had a problem with America’s character in this book because they felt she was not as strong as she was in The Selection. I agree and disagree with this. America only bothered me when she would get wrapped up in being with one of the boys and then completely forget about the other. She has a problem with trusting Maxon. He would constantly tell her to trust him and the next second she would be upset with a choice he made. This would then push her towards Aspen and thus love triangle. Other than that I felt she was a strong, fierce character who stood up for what she believed in and stayed true to herself. Yes she has her flaws but what character doesn’t?

This is one love triangle that I love! At this point in the series I trust America (and Cass) to pick correctly in the end. In my eyes there is not a wrong choice. That being said I am still totally team Maxon. First off he is a prince and secondly he is just a good guy. I will say there was one scene in particular between him another member of the Elite that upset me though. Oh Maxon why can’t you be real!

Favorite Quote – It wasn’t like I made his world better. It was like I was his world. It wasn’t some explosion; it wasn’t fireworks. It was a fire, burning slowly from the inside out.

Kind of spoiler-y but a few book three thoughts…I found out the title to books three (The One) before reading The Elite and I thought it was spoiler-y but it is totally not! I also (accidentally) saw on Twitter that he picked Kriss and I was like “WHAT, he picks someone in book 2 and its NOT America!?”…alas that was incorrect. Does anyone else feel that Kota (America’s older brother) is going to play a role in The One?

Rating

5star

ALSO! Kiera Cass and company are coming to Chicago area soon so keep an eye out for a giveaway this month for some wonderful stuff!!

The Prince – Kiera Cass

the prince

The Prince (The Selection #0.5) by Kiera Cass
Published May 5, 2013 by HarperTeen

Source: purchased

There is a rising trend of novellas in the YA genre and I have to say I love it! I think it is so wonderful that authors have the ability to give us a nugget story to tie us over between books while sometimes gaining a different view on certain scenes.

The Prince novella is about Maxon and takes place before and during the beginning of The Selection. I really enjoyed Maxon’s POV but I have to say this fell short for me compared to the full length novels. In the beginning we see Maxon’s interactions with a foreign royal his age who happens to be a girl. Living in the palace prevents Maxon from not only having friends his age but also interacting with girls. It was great to see some of The Selection from Maxon’s POV but this did not supply a large amount of important information where I felt it was necessary to read.

I would recommend picking this up if you loved The Selection and/or like Maxon otherwise this is not required to read before picking up The Elite.

Rating

4star

The Selection – Kiera Cass (audiobook)

the selectionThe Selection (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass
Narrated by Amy Rubinate

Audiobook released April 24, 2012
Source: library

I fell in love with The Selection when I first read it about a year ago and I knew I had to reread it before picking up The Elite. I saw that my library had the audiobook in their collection and I checked it out. I am still just as in love with the story and the characters as I was the first time around! The narrator had a bit of a robotic voice overall but when she was absolutely enchanting when narrating dialogue. I found myself chuckling at some of Prince Maxon’s lines that weren’t particularly funny but hearing them spoken out loud just tickled me (wow, can I sound cheesier?) I would totally recommend this book to both those who have read The Selection as well as those who are new to the series.

For those who don’t know The Selection is about a girl named America Singer who enters a competition called the Selection. The Selection consists of 35 girls from different castes (aka different classes of society) competing for the hand of the Prince as well as the title of Princess. America is reluctant to enter because she has a secret love at home but understands that her family could use the financial support that comes with being part of the Selection. I have heard it called The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor and I usually don’t agree with comparisons but this one is totally relevant!  America is a great main character who I can’t help but like.

Rating

5star

Flat-Out Matt – Jessica Park

17611379Flat-Out Matt (Flat-Out Love #1.5) by Jessica Park
Published
March 25, 2013
Source: purchased

Warning: contains spoilers of FLAT OUT LOVE

Matt is a junior at MIT. He’s geeky, he’s witty, he’s brilliant.

And he’s also very, very stupid.

When beautiful, cool, insightful Julie moves in with Matt’s family, why (oh why!) does he pretend to be his absent brother Finn for her alleged benefit? It seems harmless enough until her short-term stay becomes permanent. And until it snowballs into heart-squeezing insanity. And until he falls in love with Julie, and Julie falls in love with Finn.

But … Matt is the right one for her. If only he can make Julie see it. Without telling her the truth, without shattering them all. Particularly his fragile sister Celeste, who may need Julie the most.

I loved Matt’s POV and found it deepened the story. I really enjoyed reading about Matt and Julie from Julie’s POV but this just intenisfied things and made me love them! The only bone I have to pick with this is the fact that it isn’t the whole story from Matt’s POV  but various chapters(but hey, it’s a “novella”). At first I was scared I was not going to be able to follow along but I was pleasantly surprised that I always knew what chapter/scene was happening (and I read FLAT-OUT LOVE back in the fall).

One of the best parts of this was the prequel chapter in the beginning that featured a scene with Matt and Finn before Finn’s death. This is the only time the readers actually get to see this notorious Finn alive. Until reading this I didn’t full understand how much Finn meant to Matt. You know from Flat-Out Love that Finn is greatly missed by everyone in the family but you get to see first hand how much Finn helped Matt.

Rating

4star

The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

51737The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen
Published May
11, 2004 by Penguin
Source: library

A long, hot summer…That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

I had this book recommended to me by many and I am glad I listened! I have only heard good things about Sarah Dessen’s writing and I am glad I finally took the plunge to start reading her various novels.

Somehow this novel is both light and heavy at the same time. This is not set right after Macy’s father dies, which I think allows for the reader to really see her in the stage of acceptance and later her moving forward with her life. Macy has an internal dilemma about wanting to move on from her father’s death but she also does not want to forget him and she is finding this hard because of her mother. Macy’s mother finds her comfort in her work and making sure that Macy is the perfect daughter. She pressures Macy to focus on school and preparing herself for college. This pressure to be perfect soon gets to Macy and she finds an outlet when she gets a summer job at a catering company. It is through her relationships and experiences there were she finds out how to be happy.

The supporting characters in the novel all have their own role in Macy’s life. While Macy’s mother is the source of some of the biggest pressures in Macy’s life, she also has her own struggles. They cause each other stress but they are also a source of comfort. Macy’s sister Caroline helps alleviate some of the problems that spark between Macy and later help both Macy and her mother with the coping of the death. All of the friends Macy make while catering help bring her out of her shell. Wes of course is in his own category because he helps Macy realize what she really wants all because they play a simple game called “Truth”.

One of the most stand out themes of this novel is that perfect is not always best. In the beginning Macy seems to have the “perfect” life from her good grades to her picture-perfect boyfriend. Macy learns throughout that occasionally its plans B or C that turn out to be more fitting than plan A. Sometimes through chaos we find meaning.

Favorite Quote – “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”

4star

I really enjoyed this book and would put this under beach/summer read.

My Recommendations

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Have you read any of Sarah Dessen’s books? If you have which do you recommend I pick up next?